It takes all but a few seconds to see what Rocket Wars is all about. Now more than ever we’re seeing more games based on that old-school party formula. Overcooked remains one of the best examples of party games made fun this gen. While Rocket Wars does house some interesting ideas, it falls flat on almost all of the fronts that matters. Where the game lacks in story, it makes up for in diversity. The overarching goal remains the same from the onset, being that it’s an all out fight for survival amidst a selection of different ships.
The game allows you to play with up to four ships, enabling players to choose between playing with bots, real players, or a blend of both. The fields of play takes place within the confines of the sun’s gravitational mass. The varying modes can be played via lone play or team play. The first of which is a straight-up Deathmatch, this has you and your opposition going head to head with infinite lives until someone scores a total of ten kills. This mode also comes with a dizzying amount of power-ups to help keep things exciting.
The next mode on offer is Survivor. Here, you’re only given a maximum of five lives. Once a player runs out of lives, that’s it, they’re eliminated from the game. Much like Deathmatch, there’s a decent pool of power-ups for players to access. This leads us onto Nuke King. In this mode players will need to kill the opposing team to gain points, whilst also surviving as the titular Nuke King for as long as possible. The kicker here is that the Nuke King is generally stronger than the rest, promoting a team-to-defeat sort of playstyle.
Space Ball is the next mode, one that I found to be particularly confusing alongside the rest. Each player has an area of the map that’s specific to their color, with the goal being to hit balls that will destroy parts of your opposition’s area. It sounds a lot easier than it seems, believe me, especially when your enemies are gearing up and attacking you in rapid succession. Free Play concludes the varying solo/team modes on offer, but in all honesty, there’s very little reason to spend much time in here other than to needlessly mess around.
Entangled is the only mode that’s specific to team play. The core goal in this mode is to kill fifteen of your opponents. Sounds a lot like Deathmatch, right? Well, the twist here is that you become stronger when you’re closer to your enemy and become weaker when you’re further away. It’s an interesting mode, for sure, but it’s hardly a game changer. I have to admit that despite its generous and diverse servings, I came out of it feeling disappointed and underwhelmed. Surprising I know, especially given its focus on group play.
Party games should be fun and engaging for a great deal of time. Instead, this becomes far too boring, far too quickly. The controls are indeed well set; movement using the left stick, shooting via the A button, power-up usage is tied to the X button and shields can be activated by pressing B. One neat function that I thought was pretty cool is centered around the aforementioned gravitational pull of the sun. This gravity can be harnessed to withdraw speed and fluidity, though if you’re not careful, you can get dragged in and damaged.
Though, even with that in mind, the game just constantly felt empty. Like I said above, there’s certainly some interesting ideas here, but nothing comes together particularly well, or at least not well enough to keep the player invested over long periods of time. Rocket Wars comes across like a game from yesteryear, without attempting to bring modern day features along for the ride. Hyper Sentinel (also released this week) did a good job at achieving that, so it’s a shame to see that that’s absent here.
It doesn’t help matters that the 80s-esque soundtrack becomes dull and repetitive before long. Don’t get me wrong, it does well to set the theme of the experience, but man does it begin to annoy within just ten minutes of play. I did quite enjoy the new ship types that you’re rewarded for leveling-up, each coming with their own sets of skills. Though in the grand scheme of things, this means very little when the gameplay itself doesn’t do enough to justify the time it takes to try each ship out.
Touching up on the visuals, Rocket Wars doesn’t really use a style of its own. Instead, each battlefield looks exactly the same as the last. The ships are not visually distinct enough to stand out and the color palette ultimately relays very little, it’s fair to say that the visuals are as flat as the gameplay. It’s a missed opportunity when all is said and done. Sure, there’s no shortage of modes and ships to soak up, but there really isn’t much point to any of that when the game just isn’t at all thrilling once you’ve tried everything at least once.
Rocket Wars does offer up some varied and interesting content, but fails hopelessly to maintain its initial allure. Once everything has been tried and tested, there’s very little reason to return. The game just isn’t exciting enough nor thrilling enough to promote its replay value, ultimately putting forward a visually bland game that’s only fun in very short bursts.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.